On this day: Bd. Anne of St. Bartholomew

by Gerelyn Hollingsworth

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On this day we celebrate the feast of Bd. Anne of St. Bartholomew.

She was born in 1549, "the child of peasants living at Almendral, near Avila, and their family name was Garc'a. . . . she was drawn to religious life, and she was admitted to the Carmelite convent of St Joseph at Avila on 7 November 1570. On 15 August 1572 she was professed as the first lay Sister of the Reform. From 1575 to 1582 she was the close companion of Teresa and accompanied her on nearly all her journeys."

Teresa died in her arms. Anne wrote: "The day she died she could not speak. I changed all her linen, head-dress, and sleeves. She looked at herself quite satisfied to see herself so clean: then, turning her eyes on me, she looked at me smilingly, and showed her gratitude by signs".

Six years later, Anne of St. Bartholomew accompanied Anne of Jesus, Teresa's successor, to Paris, to establish the Discalced Carmelites there.

From Penitence to Charity: Pious Women and the Catholic Reformation in Paris, by Barbara B. Diefendorf, Oxford University Press, 2004, gives an intriguing glimpse into the difficulties Ana de San Bartolomé faced in Paris.

"Tensions caused by the cultural differences could emerge in unexpected ways. A festive occasion was nearly spoiled for everyone when the French novices found themselves struggling to swallow a highly spiced dish of cod with prunes that Spanish lay sister Ana de San Bartolomé Garcia had taken great pains to prepare. Their evident distaste for the dish prompted a rebuke from prioress Ana de Jesús. 'We have to eat your way every day, my sisters, and you can't accomodate yourselves even once to ours!' The words reveal a broader undercurrent of tension than the specific occasion would seem to warrant."

The French novices "also appear to have regarded as unseemly the joyous cries with which the Spanish punctuated their prayers. This style of worship was, in the words of the chronicles, 'very foreign to the French taste.'" Pages 109-112.

Anne of St. Bartholomew wrote at some length about her problems with the male superiors who were determined to control the new Carmelite convents. Her Autobiography and Other Writings, edited by Darcy Donahue, University of Chicago Press, 2008, are available at Amazon, but only a few pages may be sampled.

In Paris, Anne of St. Bartholomew finally became a choir nun, taking the black veil, and was "appointed prioress, first at Pontoise and then at Tours. . . . In 1611 Anne was sent to Mons, . . . In 1612 she made a foundation of her own at Antwerp. It was soon filled with the daughters of the noblest families, all wishing to learn from one who had worked so closely with Teresa and who was already regarded as a saint herself. . . . Her death in 1626 was the occasion for extraordinary demonstrations, as twenty thousand people came to view her body . . . . Anne was beatified on 6 May 1917 by Pope Benedict XV."

--Butler's Lives.

A very happy feast day to all Carmelites!

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